HALESTORM Had An 'Amazing' Time Working With Producer DAVE COBB
December 4, 2023
In a new interview with Jorge Botas of Portugal's Metal Global, HALESTORM frontwoman Lzzy Hale and guitarist Joe Hottinger spoke about the band's recent songwriting and recording session with acclaimed Grammy-winning producer Dave Cobb, known for his previous collaborations with the likes of Sammy Hagar, Slash, GRETA VAN FLEET and RIVAL SONS. Asked if they had all the material written before getting together with Cobb, Lzzy said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET) " Not at all. We went in with nothing. We had no songs, no ideas. We had some riffs and choruses, but it wasn't like we came in with these demos. And, to be honest, Dave Cobb didn't want that at all. We walked in and we were almost apologetic, like, 'I'm sorry, but we've been really busy, and I just have bits and pieces of things I think are special.' He was, like, 'Good. I don't want any demos. No plan, no nothing.' So were, like, 'What do you mean, no plan?' And it was amazing."
She continued: "We woke up every single day, we [worked] from 11 a.m. to 11 p. m. on average, every single day. [We'd] wake up, and I'm, like, at my desk and I'm figuring out lyrics from yesterday's demo, and then, 'Okay, but you know what? Scratch that. We're gonna work on a new song right now, and we'll go back to that.' So we were working on, like, four different things at once. We finished, what, like 12 songs in three weeks. So that's the magic of it all, was that we rediscovered how we as a band individually, uniquely operate and we thrive in that chaos."
Lzzy added: "As soon as you start thinking, like, 'Okay, this is the concept, these are the songs, this is what we go in, this is what we do,' it just becomes like an office job and there's no room to create, whereas this is totally not like that. You go in and you're, like, 'Wow. Anything is possible and anything could happen.' And then, as you are writing it and finishing it, you are recording it for real."
Added Joe: "It was cool. We didn't go in with anything but the shirt on our back, except that the shirt is, like, 20 years of being a band."
Continued Lzzy: "Obviously, you go in there with experience. We could have never done that 20 years ago."
Asked by Botas if the songs that were written in that chaotic environment ended up being heavier somehow because of the way they were put together, Joe said: "Yeah, a lot of them got like really weirdly heavy in a cool way. I don't know. It's not necessarily the record. That's what we did in those few weeks. And they're not all keepers, but they're great and they're good fun, and it's a reflection of where we were musically at that time."
Added Lzzy: "Yeah, and I think that comes from, even if it got darker or more intimate, especially I guess, on my end, and lyric-wise… It's a weird balancing act between, 'Okay, I'm comfortable with all of you guys enough to spill my guts because you've seen me at my worst, you've seen me at my best,' so having that experience with people that you trust, it bleeds itself into the music 'cause you're not holding anything back. But at the same time, I didn't have time to overthink either. It's, like, 'Okay, hey, by the way, we're getting a surprise visit from your A&R guy, and we still have six songs to sing.' And I'm, like, 'Oh my god.' So I finished six songs within a weekend. And so there's a beauty in taking the too much thinking out of it too. So therefore, the song has no choice but to just be what it is, whatever it is at the moment."
She added: "I'm interested to see what the next [writing session] will [produce]. We're gonna spend some time in January and February writing and pulling things out of the bank of material we'll be collecting on this tour. So, yeah, it'll be fun."
This past October, HALESTORM bassist Josh Smith revealed to Metal Global that the band was working with Cobb.
"We went down to [Dave's] place and all lived together for three weeks, which is — we live together on tour all the time, yeah, but to be in a creative space, it was incredible," Josh said. "And the music that came out is undeniably HALESTORM. There's going to be a lot of fan favorites."
Describing HALESTORM's recording process with Cobb, Josh said: "What we're doing and how he wants to work, how he's capturing us is what we do on stage. For instance, we're not using a click track; there's no time keep. It's us doing it, and so there's a lot of movement to the music… It's so human."
He continued: "I think naturally when you're even talking, just from building tension to releasing it and how that happens, and sometimes from a verse maybe is building and the tempo feels like it's building, and then the chorus — well, at least on stage — naturally probably bumps up a few BPM [beats per minute] or slows down, depending. And even our transitions or Arejay's [Hale, HALESTORM drummer] fills will push or pull. It's very human."
When Botas noted that it's "always fun to work with new people and create new ideas when someone has a different view from the one you normally have," Smith said: "Yeah, for sure. I mean, that's what you hope for in working [with] a producer. It's this person you really have to vibe with that fits into this, in this case our little world. And that chemistry between a band is so unique to every group. And so for someone to fit in, that's a special trait to have. [It's] essentially [bringing in] a fifth member of the band that can extract the uniqueness of that band. It's big shoes to fill for a producer. And thankfully we've been lucky with it, with [previous HALESTORM producers] Nick [Raskulinecz] and Jay [Joyce], and Howard [Benson] was great. But, yeah, starting with someone new and also someone who has had a very different approach from the previous one, it's really exciting. And he really is bringing out the best of us. So, yeah, it's really exciting to find someone who is so good at their craft… And he just wants to catch what everyone is excited about — lightning in a bottle. And we've been doing that. And we've caught a lot. I can't wait to go back. It's really fun. I can't wait to get back to writing new music."
Josh said that there is no timetable yet on when new HALESTORM music will arrive. "But we just worked on, like — I don't know how many songs we got worked up, 10 or 12," he said. "And we'll probably do that again when we get a chance next year, and see where we are. But it's really exciting. It's always so exciting to create new stuff and then show it to people and get judged."
Cobb has shared in nine Grammy wins, including four for "Best Americana Album" and three for "Best Country Album". He's also been named "Producer Of The Year" by the Country Music Awards, the Americana Music Association (twice) and the Music Row Awards, and has been a Grammy nominee in the category.
Also in October, Lzzy told TotalRock's "Hobo On The Radio" show about the progress of the songwriting sessions for the band's follow-up to 2022's "Back From The Dead" album: "We're always working on new music, but we've actually kind of started to buckle down and really kind of write with a purpose as to whatever we wanna kind of put out in the world next. It's kind of an exciting time because I feel like even since the last record, even beyond 'Back From The Dead', I feel like we're kind of shedding our skin in a way that's kind of beautiful where we all kind of feel like different people than who we were when we were writing the last record. So it's time for whatever that next chapter is. So it's very exciting."
She continued: "I've been writing in a lot of subjects that I haven't necessarily touched on before and been kind of exploring those things. And I've become even more of a serial eavesdropper. I will be sitting at a pub or something and I will kind of zone out, and it's amazing the conversations you hear other people talking about. And so sometimes those leech their way into the songs. But, yeah, we'll probably have something by next year."
Lzzy and her brother Arejay (drums) formed HALESTORM in 1998 while in middle school. Hottinger joined the group in 2003, followed by Smith in 2004.
This past May, HALESTORM teamed up with country singer Ashley McBryde for a reimagined version of the band's song "Terrible Things", which was originally featured on "Back From The Dead".
In December 2022, HALESTORM released a deluxe edition of "Back From The Dead". "Back From The Dead: Deluxe Edition" includes seven previously unreleased B-sides, including "Mine", a 1980s-inspired rocker. "Back From The Dead: Deluxe Edition" is available digitally, on CD, and cassette tape, marking the first time that the album has been offered in those physical formats.
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